Updated on 10.08.14

Other’s Priorities Don’t Have to Be Yours

Trent Hamm

Kelly writes in:

In the past three months, I’ve paid off all but $2,000 of my credit card debt. I feel happier about my money than I have in a long time. The only problem is that my social life seems to be falling apart. I don’t have as much interest in the things my friends are spending their money and time on and I find myself doing other things a lot. What do you suggest?

Bear with me for a second as I go down a bit of a strange road.

I’ll admit it. I’m not a good housekeeper, and neither is my wife.

Yes, we keep our house reasonably clean and we make an extra effort to clean when guests come over, but on a day to day basis, housework is lower on our priority list than it seems to be for many other people that we know. Quite often, we do minimal cleanup during the week and wait until Saturday for a real housecleaning – and, even then, we don’t scrub the walls or things like that on a regular basis.

Our priorities are simply different. There’s no wrong or right about it. Some people value housecleaning more than we do. A few of our closest friends spend literally hours each day on housecleaning because keeping their house sparkling is a very high priority for them.

So what’s a high priority for us? Time with our kids and with each other. Learning new things. Finding ways to have fun without spending a mint.

If we were to simply follow the lead of some of the people in our social circle, we would probably spend more than we do. One of my closest friends is becoming a small-scale land baron. Another one buys lots of Leroy Nieman serigraphs and, on occasion, original art. Yet another close friend really, really values his three automobiles.

Our money goes towards financial stability, because that’s what we value.

Placing that value highly, even if it’s not in line with what our friends seem to value, hasn’t damaged our deepest, most important friendships. You don’t have to value exactly what others value – you just have to respect it.

Instead, our friendships are usually based on the things we do have in common. Almost all of our friends really enjoy hosting and attending evenings full of board games, usually with a potluck meal. Even though there’s a variety of political perspectives, we all value political discussions that don’t turn into insults, so we often discuss politics together in a setting that would often result in arguments and fights. We all value reading and learning new things. None of us, at this point, is in a bad financial state, as we all have our debts under control.

For all of the things we do differently, we have those key things in common. You don’t have to do what your friends do, and you don’t have to value all of the same things that your friends value.

If you value living frugally, that’s fine. You don’t have to spend like your friends do. Instead, find ways to accentuate the things you do have in common. What do you both value? That’s the basis of a strong friendship.

Kelly, it seems to me that you’ve adopted stronger financial practices as a significant value in your life, and that’s great. It’ll help you to stay afloat no matter what the river of life sends your way.

The question is what else there is in your life. What other things do you value? How do you spend your spare time? What do you think about? There’s a good chance that these things still overlap with your friends – and if they do, seek ways to spend time with them that match up with those values.

You might find that your values actually are pretty far away from some of them and that your friendship was really only based on one value, one that you’ve moved away from as you’ve grown as a person. That’s fine – I discovered that myself when I started re-evaluating my life. If that happens, it simply means that it’s time to start socializing in ways that will help you meet people that match up well with your current values.

I firmly believe that if you surround yourself with people who mostly value different things than you do, you will be unhappy. I also firmly believe that if you seek out groups of people with which you share at least some values, you’re likely to build great relationships and friendships. Even better, if you can seek out multiple groups in this way – a group that matches one value you hold dear and another group that matches another value you hold dear – you’ll not only build friendships and relationships, but you’ll be able to make some powerful connections, too.

Good luck!

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  1. mandolin says:

    I really like this post Trent. We don’t have to value the same things at all as our friends or family. We don’t have to spend our money in the same way. We just reserve judgement and allow everyone to live their lives in a way that makes sense for them.

  2. gail says:

    My family and my husband’s family spend their time together going to Broadway plays, Disney vacations,and dinners out. We feel left out because we do not choose to spend our money on events like these. Any suggestions on how to get some family time together with people who have a lot of money? I should mention that our girls ae teens, much older than our nephews, and do not have a lot in common with them, so going to a playground or park with 2 & 3 year-olds would be more like babysitting for them than having fun.

  3. Michele says:

    To Gail- how about inviting them to your house for an evening (frugal, but bountiful) dinner and a board game? Tell them to get a sitter so your teens won’t feel obligated to watch the little kids and then they can join in the game! That way, everyone gets involved and they can bring some expensive wine or a fancy dessert if they like :) Something like “the Game of Things” is a blast with a variety of ages.

  4. Cathy says:

    To Gail – Maybe a volunteer project that all can get involved in – a local animal shelter or food bank where even little ones can help sort food. On a Saturday/Sunday afternoon, bake and decorate cupcakes to take to a retirement home or hospital.

  5. Maureen says:

    I like the idea of a picnic in the park, with the understanding that the parents would be looking after their kids, not your teens.

    Another idea would be a potluck dinner followed by a Wii tournament.

    You could have an Eater egg hunt and brunch (sometime around Easter, doesn’t have to be on that day). The teens could hide ’em and the little ones could find ’em.

  6. Jules says:

    “Be who you are…those who mind, don’t matter–and those who matter, don’t mind.”

    That pretty much sums up how I feel about money and friends. I don’t understand why people feel compelled to try to hang on to relationships that don’t have anything substantial behind them.

  7. clc says:

    I usually read your posts as they arrive daily in my inbox – and that works very well for me. Sometimes, it is hard to tell when you switch from the letter writer to YOU writing. Like in this post, as I read along, I thought it was still “Kelly” a number of paragraphs into the post, and then when I realized it was “Trent” talking, I had to go back and start all over and figure out when the change happened. Finally, I clicked and read the post from the site.

    This has happened a lot, especially in the mailbag section. In the email version, the text size changes even though it is still the letter writer.

    I don’t know if this has been mentioned before – if this confuses anyone but me! But I thought I would let you know.

  8. Pat says:

    And the really great thing about priorities is that they change as we grow and mature. When my kids where small my priority was spending time and having fun with them since they are only small for such a short amount of time. Now one is gone from the nest and we only have a 15-year old left and our priorities have shifted again. I love keeping our house tidy now. And while she doesn’t enjoy museums as much as her sibling she and I still love to travel and explore. She is alot more hands-on and likes a tidy home as much as me.

  9. Nicole says:

    To address the poster’s question…

    I think I would talk to your closest friends and tell them you’ve got money problems/you’re getting out of debt (and let them let the word get around) but you miss spending time with them. Ask if they have any ideas for things you could do together that are inexpensive, or bring a list of things in the area you can suggest and see if they’re interested in any of them. You may not be the only one who wants less expensive social opportunities!

  10. Jeannette says:

    If only life were as black/white as Trent often makes it seem when it comes to friends, or even family.

    Often, we have friends (or varying degrees and types) not based on shared values but on shared experiences or interests. These friendships are no better or worse or more relevant or of value than those with people with whom we may share core beliefs (lifestyle, politics, spending, etc.)

    Work is one place where we develop friendships that are predicated more perhaps on shared workstyles and interests than one’s personal beliefs. But these can be valuable friendships in many ways.

    Often, we meet people who share our passions, and little else.

    The real tough part is family because the reality is, despite the pretty pictures that many paint, many of us do not share good memories, values, lifestyle and financial choices with our “families” of origin. Yet, we often still love and care for these people, DESPITE their attitudes and beliefs that we not only do not share but may actively violate our most basic and core beliefs. That is a real challenge in life and one that does not easily find ways to resolve.

    Family gatherings of any type are breeding grounds for all sorts of bad behavior, despite the attempts of many to achieve a sort of neutrality and open-ness. Just doesn’t happen.

    I have to question Trent’s conclusion that “I firmly believe that if you surround yourself with people who mostly value different things than you do, you will be unhappy. I also firmly believe that if you seek out groups of people with which you share at least some values, you’re likely to build great relationships and friendships”

    We value all the friendships in our lives, for different reasons. And as we matured, we have learned to take each in context. We believe what we believe and do not need others to validate it.

    Real friendships evolve organically. We feel it’s more important to be authentic in who you are and not pretend to be something you aren’t (which so many people do in an attempt to “move up”, whatever that may mean) and that helps you meet and get to know others who will appreciate us for who we are.

    Contrived relationships exist for various reasons, but they are not what we would consider friendships.

    In the meantime, we have a core group of people who share our values on friendship, but not always our life values on everything. (Yes, it’s a real surprise to realize that people you adore on so many levels hold views that are diametrically opposed to your own on key life issues, usually manifest thru their political views. But you can still have great relationships.

    You just have to know, honor and respect others and THEIR POVs and values as you do your own. That’s the key. If you both can do that, friendship will survive.

    Trent, sorry, your version of friendship sounds more like “mirroring” than anything else. While that is valid and works, it is not the preferred or even most desirable way to build friendships.

    Friendships are as different and varied as the people we meet. It’s up to us to choose to value what we find and not just keep looking for what we deem essential.

    People who are open to others who do not think or act like them tend to have a broader and more diverse, and often as deep and meaningful, series of relationships than those who “limit” them to certain types.

    I’m sorry, but I just get the feeling of judgment when I read your words on this Trent. I don’t think that is your intention, but you often come off as very narrow and isolated in your approach to a lot of stuff. Which is absolutely OK. You get to live your life as you wish. I just think you might need more diversity.

    We live in a major city and we know all kinds of folks from all over with so many different views and opinions. We have had to rethink a great deal in our own lives and while we retain our core values, we do see the world differently thanks to the exposure to these people who do not think or act just as we do. We are very lucky.

  11. Jeannette says:

    One more bit:

    We heartily agree with Trent’s ideas about sharing meals and game nights, etc. when you cannot afford to do (or, do not chooose to share) the activities they undertake.

    however, this has limits. Because the reality is, you may be creating some memories but those friends or families do have those other shared experiences, which can really matter to others.

    The reality is, for some people, whether family or friends, your alternatives are not gonna be of interest.

    Most people we know have very, very limited free time due to work and family demands. When they have time, they want to do something they really really really want, be it theater or a concert or a sports event. A nite in with a rented movie or games, is not their preferred use.

    So the reality is, a lot of times, friendships are limited by how you spend your time. Period.

    In theory, “if you liked us, you would FILL IN THE BLANK,” should be a viable alternative. In real life, not so much.

    And that doesn’t mean the folks heading to those places are shallow or without values.

    We know plenty of people who have the resources to travel a lot more than we can afford, to entertain on a level that we cannot match. The “real” friends among them accept that we cannot and are open to lots of different ways of socializing. But just because they do stuff doesn’t mean they are without values.

    Again, I still kinda feel that negative judgmental attitude in Trent. Everyone does not have to embrace frugality as he and others here do. The acceptance works BOTH ways.

    YOUR priorities do not have to be OTHERS’ priorities.

    Sometimes, it really does seem that “frugal” folks look down on those who spend.

  12. reulte says:


    Just tell them you don’t feel like doing such & such. You say your interests are changing and you find yourself doing other things. So, invite them to the ‘other things’. Don’t bother bringing up the frugality issue. Be open to finding more friends in those new activities and inviting old friends to your new activities.

  13. mellen says:

    Great advice Trent but I think you missed what she’s actually asking you. I don’t know how old she is but I’m betting mid-20s b/c I went through the same thing when I was that age. I used to go out with my “friends” after work and have drinks, go to clubs on the weekends and spend tons of money out shopping with my girlfriends; then in a very short period of time, those things stopped making me happy. I couldn’t understand it and I thought maybe I was depressed. It took a while but what I started to realize was that I just wasn’t interested in those things anymore, I wasn’t connecting to people on a level that was fulfilling because the things we were doing “together” made me feel alone. Every time I hear someone make that statement, it reminds me of that feeling so I could be off base but I think Kelly’s just outgrowing her old friends, it does happen sometimes.

  14. Steffie says:

    Who’s to say that you can’t have more than one group of friends ? Budget in the ‘splurge’ to go with the spend money crowd. Maybe not all the time but once in a awhile. We have ‘party all night at the club’ friends and the ‘stay at home/play cards’ friends. Different points of view etc keep life interesting.

  15. Tammy says:

    I completely agree. I got tired of ‘friendships’ that only hurt my wallet and made me feel bad about myself. My family is my priority now, not wandering around the mall every weekend, looking to buy crap I don’t need and can’t afford. I think I outgrew that friendship, just as you described. We just don’t have that much in common anymore.

  16. Kelly says:

    I have started spending less time with my friends and intend to keep it this way. Thanks again Trent!!

  17. Steve says:

    There is a saying, ” More the merrier” but not always its true when your groups of friends meet at one place…Its hard to host a party like that and at the same time, entertaining all of them is quite a task…I say keep your groups minimal so you can better spend quality time with all of them.

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